The House of Commons will vote before January 21 on the draft Brexit agreement negotiated by Theresa May, according to a Downing Street spokesperson. The British Parliament was originally scheduled to meet on Tuesday to approve or reject the project, but fearing failure after very tense debates, the Prime Minister decided on Monday to postpone the date of the vote.
Theresa May now hopes to renegotiate the agreement before presenting it to Parliament again. Having already struggled for 17 months to develop a text with Brussels, she now wants guarantees that the safeguard clause, or “backstop” will not apply indefinitely. This safety net aims to prevent the reestablishment of a physical border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
It’s a tough ask for May, who undertook a short tour of European capitals in the hope drumming up some support for the added guarantee. Her first stop was in The Hague Tuesday where she met her Dutch counterpart, Mark Rutte for a breakfast meeting, before travelling to Berlin to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
As with other EU leaders Merkel was clear that there will be no reopening of the Brexit negotiations but she did tell a parliamentary group after her meeting with May that efforts were being made to give extra guarantees to the British.
Merkel’s position was echoed earlier in the day by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker who told parliamentarians in Strasbourg that “The agreement we reached is the best we can, it’s the only one possible, there is no place for any renegotiation.”
He stressed that neither London nor Brussels wanted to resort to the “backstop” on the Irish border but that this provision should be maintained in the agreement. “It is necessary for the coherence of our agreement, it is necessary for Great Britain and Ireland, Ireland will never be left alone,” he insisted.
After Angela Merkel, Theresa May had meetings with European Council President Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker on her agenda. Brexit will also be on the menu of the European summit scheduled for Thursday and Friday in Brussels.